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Florida man buys Ebara Solar assets

An unidentified Florida man bought the assets of Ebara Solar of Belle Vernon in a state bankruptcy auction Thursday at the company’s facility and on the Internet. It was unclear, however, what he intended to do with the assets. Ebara’s founders were forced to bow out of the bidding when they were unable to secure private financing to participate. But Larry Stern, a former Bayer Corp. executive who had been working with Ebara Solar founders Richard Rosey and John Easoz on revamping the company’s business plan, said they were in discussions with the purchaser on possibly partnering to keep the assets in the Belle Vernon facility. “This story isn’t over yet,” Stern said. Participants bid on 696 individual lots assets, which Stern valued at $11 million.

Hanna adds agency

Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has acquired its second Cleveland-area agency in the past three months. In June, the company bought Smythe, Cramer & Co., a move that at the time it said made it the fourth-largest privately held real estate company in the nation and ninth-largest overall. It has now added Hackett & Arnold Realtors, whose 75 agents and staff it will fold into its Smythe, Cramer subsidiary. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Hanna now has105 offices across Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia, and employs more than 3,000 sales associates and staff.

Kodak slashes dividend

Eastman Kodak Co. slashed its $1.80 annual dividend to 50 cents a share — the first cut in decades — as it struggles to accelerate growth in the digital photography market to offset sliding film sales. The move, announced Thursday, is aimed at reducing spending and boosting investment in digital markets by as much as $3 billion. Kodak expects to boost its sales from $12.8 billion last year to $16 billion in 2006 and $20 billion by 2010. The world’s biggest photography company said it wants to turn itself into “a more balanced, diversified company that is a leader in the digital markets it serves.”

Consol raises $190 million

Consol Energy Inc. has closed on the previously announced sale of 11 million shares of common stock in a private placement sale, raising about $190 million. The Upper St. Clair-based mining company said the stock sold at $17.82 a share. Consol said the money will be used to satisfy the financial assurance requirements of environmental reclamation and self-insurance employee benefits. Concurrently, RWE of Essen, Germany, and Consol’s largest shareholder, closed on the sale of 14.1 million shares of its common stock in Consol, leaving it with 43.9 million shares in the mining company, or 48.9 percent of common shares outstanding.

Janitors to rally

Hundreds of members of the Service Employees International Union will gather at 8:15 a.m. today to begin an “inequity tour.” Janitors will visit Downtown office buildings to deliver letters pointing out wage and benefit discrepancies between janitors in different Downtown buildings. The SEIU, which represents 700 Downtown janitors, says obtaining better healthcare benefits will be a top priority when it begins contract negotiations later this month with owners and contractors in the majority of Downtown’s largest buildings.

13 drug makers sued

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday against 13 pharmaceutical companies, alleging that they improperly inflated generic drug prices paid for by the state’s Medicaid program. The lawsuit alleges that because of fraudulent pricing the state overpaid the companies $50 million for generic drugs over several years. The suit seeks triple damages. The lawsuit names Mylan Laboratories Inc. and Barr Laboratories Inc. among the defendants.

Defense funding OK’d

The U.S. House of Representatives approved funding for defense initiatives for several local firms Thursday. Included in the legislation was $221 million for United Defense of Uniontown to rebuild Bradley Fighting Vehicles; $11 million for surface ship defense systems to SenSyTech Inc. and Advanced Acoustic Concepts, both of Uniontown; $5 million to Derry-based Pittsburgh Electric Engines Inc. for continued development of hydrogen fuel cells; $3.4 million to Kennametal for cost reduction and improvements for defense armaments; $7 million for defense-related research at Indiana University of Pennsylvania; $35 million to Electro Optics Center in Kittanning for electro-optics programs; $10 million to Carnegie Mellon University for cyber-security education; as well as funding for healthcare initiatives at UPMC, Winber Medical Center, Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative and UPMC Children’s Hospital. The funding is expected to pass quickly in the Senate.

Coneman wins award

Have no fear, Coneman is still no longer here, but that hasn’t stopped him and his sidekick, Caution the Wonderdog, from winning awards. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership said Thursday that it had won merit awards for both its “Coneman” and “Downtown Pittsburgh — A Holiday Tradition With A New Twist” advertising campaigns from the International Downtown Association. Additionally, the Coneman campaign — designed to help inform commuters during the Fort Pitt Bridge and Tunnel project — received a Bronze Award for Creative Excellence from the Association of Commuter Transportation.

Other business news

  • Fisher Scientific International Inc. said Thursday it will sell 6.6 million shares of its common stock to Banc of America Securities. It has also granted Banc of American an option to buy an additional 995,000 shares. The company said it will use the $261 million in net proceeds to repay outstanding debt and for general corporate purposes.

  • Rite Aid Corp., the nation’s third-largest drug store chain, reported a slight second-quarter loss Thursday of $10.6 million, or 4 cents per share, that matched analysts’ estimates. Revenues for the quarter were $4.05 billion, up 5 percent from $3.86 billion a year ago.

  • Pittsburgh-area stocks fell Thursday. The Bloomberg Pittsburgh Index of 67 stocks declined 2.48 to 183.21.


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